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Where is the Rule of Law today?

New Delhi, July 26 (ANI): Not a day passes when the front pages of newspapers, whether in the capital city of India New Delhi, or the states are not full crime stories, and the fact that the police, or the forces of law and order, are failing the citizens of the country in their basic right of protection and rule of law.

The fact that India and her people have tolerated rampant corruption in everyday life has perhaps led to the natural corollary-the collapse of rule of law.

India’s passive and peace loving people have suffered for long from this malaise. Not many may realise, but the simple fact is that even during the so-called successful era of the Moghul dynasty, during Akbar, Jehangir or Shahjahan’s rule, there was rampant corruption and exploitation of the people.

India’s farmers and poor suffered the most under the weight of a feudal jagirdari and zamindari system of managing the rural India.

When Sir Thomas Roe, an emissary of Britain’s King James I, made his way to Agra from Surat in a long and arduous journey to present his papers to the Moghul Emperor Jehangir, he left behind a detailed account of what he saw through the country during his travel. His stay in Surat, his long travel to Agra and finally the goings on at the Moghul court made him write “there is no rule of law in these domains”.

It was that rampant corruption and lack of rule of law, among other things, that led to the final collapse of governance in India, even as the tottering Moghul dynasty continued to stay in the Red Fort of Delhi.

History is a witness to the fact that during that dark era, the people of India could not travel without the fear of being robbed on the highways. There was no safety, for there was no law and order. Women became as much victims of this lawlessness.

As a new era of British rule began to emerge with the steady collapse of the Moghul Empire, the new rulers made sure to win the support of the people by giving them law and order. Travel was made safe and “thugee” or highway robbery was eradicated with a heavy hand. Courts to dispense justice were created at various levels, starting from the districts.

Governance of the country under a legal system made available to the people without discrimination. People were assured that they were all equal in the eyes of the law.

Emerging from the chaos of the aftermath of the collapse of Moghul rule, the people of India heaved a sigh of relief as peace and rule of law returned to the land. ndia’s people used the same law to fight foreign rule non-violently, to create an independent state and nation for themselves. The colonial rulers had created a system of governance in India.

Ninety years of by and large peaceful governance of India after the suppression of Mutiny in 1857-58 saw India make great strides in communications, railways, road network, education, including women’s education, modern medical care and industry – almost in every sphere of life.

India began to wake up. Colonial rule, however, continued to suffer from the inherited “Jagirdari” and “Zamindari” system in rural India, apart from the feudalism of princely India. However, rule of law had been established and that helped in the forward movement of the people and their aspirations.

India achieved her goal of independence in 1947, albeit with partition, but the founding fathers used the well established system of governance, that started from the grass root of a district, to take the country on to the goal of greater prosperity.

Feudalism in its all manifestations, be it princely rulers, or Jagirdars or Zamindars, was abolished quickly. The people of India gave unto themselves a Constitution that promises equality, justice and rule of law among other things.

We have made great strides since the promulgation of India’s Constitution. But, let it also not be forgotten that since the disappearance of the giant founding fathers from the Indian political scene, corruption has almost become a way of life, more so for the political class of India.

Our electoral system is virtually run by black money. The rule of law is beginning to disappear, if it has already not disappeared from many areas. There is no law and order around if one were to see the daily mayhem on Indian roads. It is no longer safe for a young couple at night to take a long drive on a highway anywhere in India. Even buses loaded with passengers get robbed some time.

Those of us living in Delhi may not see all that is happening even ten kilometres away from the capital. Living in Delhi, one does not know all that is going on in the states and the districts.

The violent attack by the workers of Maruti on their management in Manesar, just about forty kilometres from New Delhi, is a clear illustration of the fact that there is no fear of the machinery of law and order, or of the government?

Something that I saw personally in a district of Punjab recently goes further to prove the contention of this author that governance and rule of law is fast disappearing from India. And, it is all due to corruption starting at the level of politicians ruling the country and the states, followed by the bureaucracy responsible for the day to day governance of the country at all levels.

A group of non-resident Indians, including two ladies, respectable and educated, together with a senior advocate escorting them, were present before a tehsildar to record their presence in the case of a sale of land. Yet, the official refused to accept that they were there standing in his office in front of him, whereas he proceeded to tell them about the non-existent presence of the buyer. When they asked him where the buyer was, he simply declared: “he must be around, for he was with me a while ago-go find him”.

A junior functionary of the tehsildar’s office told the advocate that if his boss received a six-figure sum the presence of his clients could be recorded. The other side has taken care of him he confided.

Frustrated and harassed, they rushed to the senior police officer of the district, then called the deputy commissioner. Both the officials called the tehisildar over the phone to tell him to stop harassing the visitors and record their presence. Yet, it did not happen. Finally, it happened just twenty minutes before the closing of the office after an official from a senior politician’s office rang up the tehsildar.

The visitors suffered this terrible ordeal, to which I am a witness, for eight long hours in the heat, humidity, dirt and squalor of the tehsildar’s office, with no food or water through the day. But for this last call, their presence before this unworthy tehsildar would not have been accepted. Is this the rule of law in India of 2012? Is this the way India is being governed at the grass root level?

The reality of the above incident is that even as senior officials of the district are aware of the existence of this very corrupt tehsildar in their midst, there is very little they can do about him. They cannot sack him for he has protection of politicians and district goons. This puny official is thus a law unto himself and ruler of all that he surveys?

The cancer of corruption is now fast eating into the state structure, rule of law and governance of India. It is this that is responsible for the vast territories in parts of India now being virtually controlled by rebel Maoists or Naxalites. All this has happened in just sixty plus years since independence. This is in no way meant to under-rate the progress made by the country in many spheres.

The hard won independence of India needs to be protected in an equally tough manner. If the nation allows the rule of law to disappear, then the state structure itself begins to erode and that is where the freedom comes in peril. You can have any amount of well-intentioned laws like “Right to Information”, but unless you eradicate the scourge of corruption the rule of law becomes its victim.

If India has to progress and grow, then she must ensure rule of law, ensure good governance and undertake surgical operation to rid the cancer of corruption and the corrupt from its body. Or else we will become just an “also ran” nation in the globalised world of 21st century. By Prem Prakash (ANI)

Attn: News Editors/News Desks: The above article has been authored by Mr. Prem Prakash, a senior journalist and Chairman of Asian News International.

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